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How to Make a Will in Michigan FAQ

A last will and testament is a critical legal document to help your family members and other loved ones when you die. To make a valid will in Michigan, you must follow specific procedures and Michigan law. We have the answers to your frequently asked questions about making a will in the state of Michigan.

Table of Contents

What If I Die Without a Will in Michigan?

If you do not make a will in Michigan, you die “intestate,” meaning without a will. A probate court follows intestacy laws to distribute your property among your family members according to state law.

What Does a Will Do?

A will gives the probate court instructions on how you want your estate managed. In your will, you may direct the following:

  • Who manages your estate (your personal representative or executor)
  • Who receives your personal property and real estate (your beneficiaries)
  • Who should care for your minor children (your guardian)
  • Who should care for your pets
  • If you want to make charitable donations

If you do not make these decisions, it is up to the court to decide for you. A will speeds up the probate process, saving time and money.

What Doesn’t a Will Do?

However, certain types of assets pass outside of your will. For example, bank accounts and life insurance policies. These assets pass to your beneficiaries by transfer-on-death beneficiary designations accounts or named beneficiaries on policies such as the following:

  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts such as IRAs, Keoghs, 401K
  • Pensions
  • Life insurance
  • Annuities

Check all your account and policies to make sure you have the correct beneficiary and backup beneficiary (in case the primary beneficiary dies before you). If you do not have a beneficiary for these accounts and policies, the proceeds become part of your probate estate. You may have to provide contact information so the banks and insurers can give them to your beneficiaries.

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Who Can Make a Will in Michigan?

The person making a will, called a “testator,” must have testamentary capacity to make a will in Michigan, meaning they are of a certain age and have a sound mind.

  • Age: A testator must be at least 18 years old.
  • Sound Mind: A testator must have a sound mind. A sound mind means the testator has testamentary capacity which means they are aware they are making a will, understands what property they own, who their natural beneficiaries are, and know the effect of them signing a will.

A testator must have testamentary capacity at the time they make and sign the will.

Does Michigan Have a Statutory Will?

Yes. In section 700.2519 of the Michigan state code, Michigan provides a statutory will for its citizens. However, the will is limited in how you distribute your property. For example, you may only leave two cash gifts to persons or charities, and the remainder of your estate goes to your spouse (if you have one). If you do not have a spouse at the time of your death, it goes to your children.

Many people opt for online estate planning solutions, such as Trust & Will, to create their will customized to their needs. The advantage is that they can make a new will whenever they have a life change, such as a death in the family, the birth of a child, or divorce. Such life events may prompt you to change your personal representative, beneficiaries, or guardians.

What Types of Wills Does Michigan Accept?

Michigan only recognizes certain types of wills for probate court. It is helpful to understand the following types of will and if they are acceptable to the court:

  • Handwritten Will: A handwritten, or holographic will, is a will the testator writes in their own hand. Many states do not honor handwritten wills, but Michigan is an exception. A handwritten will is valid if material parts of the will are in the testator’s handwriting and signed and dated by the testator. It does not require witnesses.
  • Oral Will: Michigan does not permit oral or spoken wills. All wills must be in writing.
  • Electronic Will: An electronic will refers to a method of signing or witnessing a will using two-way audio-visual technology. Currently, Michigan does not allow electronic wills.

Even though you could handwrite your will and not use witnesses, you may open your will up to challenges of fraud or undue influence.

Can I Make My Own Will in Michigan?

Yes. Michigan allows you to make your own will. You can create your will if you have testamentary capacity and know how you want to distribute your estate. You do not need an attorney to draft a will in Michigan and many use self-help solutions such as Trust & Will. However, if you have a specific type of case where you have a significant net worth and need specialized tax planning or a child with special needs and want a living trust, you may wish to seek legal advice.

How Do I Make My Will Valid in Michigan?

Michigan has specific requirements for signing and witnessing your will. You must comply with the following Michigan laws to make a valid will:
  • Signature: You must sign your will, or if you are unable to sign, you may direct someone else in your presence to sign for you.
  • Witnesses: Two competent witnesses must witness your signing of your will or your acknowledgment of your signature on your will.
  • Interested witnesses: An interested witness is one who stands to inherit your property by a will or intestacy laws. Many states do not allow interested witnesses to attest to a will. However, Michigan does not have a law against interested witnesses.
  • Notary: You do not need a notary for your will. However, you will need a notary if you want to use a self-proving affidavit.
  • Self-Proving Affidavit: An optional self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement that your witnesses sign when you make your will. They attest in front of a notary that they saw you sign your will, you have testamentary capacity, and it is your voluntary act without constraint or undue influence. The benefit of using a self-proving affidavit is that your witnesses do not have to testify in probate court about your will’s authenticity.

A probate court may not honor your will if you do not follow the state requirements.

Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Michigan?

No. You cannot completely disinherit your spouse unless they signed a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement waiving their right to an elective share of your property. An elective share is a portion of a decedent’s estate that a spouse may claim if left of out the will. They may also receive a homestead allowance, family allowance, and allowance for exempt property (furniture, household items, automobiles).

Can I Disinherit My Children in Michigan?

Generally, you can disinherit any adult children who are not minors or dependents in your will. However, you must expressly state you are disinheriting them in your will. If you leave them out of your will, the probate court treats them as an omitted child by mistake and allows them an intestate share.

What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Michigan?

Having a will is an important first step in a complete estate plan. However, there are other documents that help protect you and your family throughout your life.

  • Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document where you appoint someone as your agent or attorney in fact to make financial decisions for you and manage your financial affairs. This is a handy document if you are out of town and an important one if you are suddenly incapacitated.
  • Health Care Directive. A health care directive, also called a living will, allows you to give instructions for your end-of-life care and treatment, including life-prolonging measures. You can also name a health care agent in your health care directive. Your health care agent is in charge of your health care decisions and receives information about your medical condition. It is helpful to make these decisions in a health care directive, so your loved ones don’t have to make them.

Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Michigan estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.

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Written by:

Catherine Hodder, Esq.

Senior Legal Writer

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Reviewed by:

Ally Marshall, Esq.

Managing Editor